Feb. 23,2005 - With the soccer and wrestling seasons officially under wraps, the basketball playoffs took center stage last week with several area teams vying for a state title.
The girls programs of the Northwest and Foothills region are proving to be among the best in the Tucson area, sending seven teams to the state playoffs. In contrast, only one boys squad, out of eight area teams, qualified for the end of the year finale.
Of the eight teams with eyes set on claiming the state's ultimate prize, however, only two remain. Separated by less than a mile, the girls teams from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy and Canyon del Oro High School are the last two standing from the area.
No one may be playing better basketball right now than the girls of CDO. Entering the Class 5A Southern Region playoffs as a No. 4 seed, the Dorados (19-11, 7-5 Southern Region) were expected to finish behind region powerhouses Salpointe and Flowing Wells.
With its perfect balance of outside finesse and inside pressure, CDO swept through the region playoffs with wins over Sahuaro, 40-27, Flowing Wells, 49-42, on the Caballeros home court, and No. 1 seeded Salpointe 40-23.
"We got three seniors who are starting to realize it's getting close to the end," said CDO head coach Kerri Brown. "They're leaving it all out on the floor."
The win over the Lancers earned the Dorados a home game in the first round of the state tourney. CDO hosted 14th ranked Hamilton on Feb. 22.
At PRCA, it's business as usual for the Class 2A school. The Lions rode an undefeated region season into the state playoffs as a No. 1 seed. Led by the dominating low post duo of Reagan Sutton and Holly Paddock, PRCA was able to dispose of Arizona Lutheran, 43-31, in a game played at Mountain Pointe High School. The following day the Lions upped that margin, winning handily over Many Farms High School, 53-29. Point guard Natalie Harrison led the Lions with 11 points and Sutton added 10 of her own as PRCA jumped out to a 28-13 lead at the half and never looked back.
The Lions now advance to the semifinals where they will face a No. 2 San Carlos team that knocked off No. 1 seeded Valley Christian, 37-33 in overtime. That game will be played at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 25 at Glendale Arena.
As CDO and PRCA celebrate their runs into and through the playoffs, several teams with state title aspirations find themselves asking what went wrong.
The Class 4A sent three teams to the state tourney from the Northwest and Foothills region-two as No.1 seeds and one that very well could have been a No. 1 seed.
After getting a bye in the first round for being a No. 1 seed, Ironwood Ridge was able to outlast a tough Saguaro squad by a score of 42-38. In a seesaw battle, the Nighthawks were able to turn a two point halftime deficit into a three point win despite losing star forward Lindsey Miller to foul trouble.
"That's the way we play," said head coach Gary Crane, after beating Saguaro, of his team's back and forth scrappy style of play. "We're never going to blow people out."
That nail-biting style came back to haunt the Nighthawks in their next game, a home match up against Page. IRHS's dreams of a state title were dashed with a 44-43 loss.
As the IRHS season was coming to an end in Oro Valley, the girls of Catalina Foothills were facing a struggle of their own at home. Also a No. 1 seed, the Falcons were denied a trip to the semifinals by Thunderbird, 55-48. Thunderbird rode four 3-pointers during the game's final minutes to extend a one-point lead into an unmanageable 10-point deficit for the Falcons.
Instead of hoisting a new championship banner to match the girls soccer team's from this year, the Falcons will begin a long rebuilding process, said head coach, Laura Siemons.
"This was the year we were going to go all the way," said Siemons. Losing six seniors to graduation will strip the Falcons of much of its inside game. After the loss to Thunderbird, the same team that knocked them out of last year's state playoffs, Siemons said it may take several years to build the program back up.
Dropping two of its final four games, wasn't the end the girls of Marana (23-8, 14-0) had envisioned for their undefeated region season. After losing to IRHS in the region playoffs to relinquish a No.1 seed in the state playoffs, Marana seemed to be back on track with a first round win at state over Glendale Independence, 61-27. Senior forward Erin Parsons paced the Tigers with 16 points and Whitney Lewis poured in 14 of her own. The victory was to be short lived, however. Before dropping Catalina Foothills, Marana became a victim of Thunderbird's deadly outside shooting, losing 44-37. After falling down by 10 points early, Marana was never able to recover despite doubling up the Chiefs 12-6 in the third quarter.
In Class 1A action, Green Fields Country Day School's girls squad seemed to be cruising through the state playoffs with wins over The Orme School, 47-21, and Pima High School, 45-37. That was before Whitney Standifer and the Griffins ran into Salome in the semifinals. Salome squeaked by Green Fields, 23-20 to advance to the finale where they eventually fell to 2005 1A state champion Fredonia.
Before knocking off Green Fields, Salome made it a perfect two-for-two against Northwest teams when the Frogs beat Immaculate Heart Academy 43-33.
The lone boys squad to reach the state playoffs came from the Class 1A. The No. 3 Green Fields boys advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over No. 2 Canyon State Academy 53-47. The win proved to be the Griffins last of the season. Seligman High School, out of Yavapai County, downed the Griffins 48-38.
Failing to qualify for the state playoffs for the boys was CDO, Mountain View, Catalina Foothills, Marana, Pusch Ridge, Green Fields and Immaculate Heart. The lone girls program that fell in its effort to make state was Mountain View.